Obama urges support for Colorado wildfire victims, rescue workers

President Obama pledged continued federal assistance for the victims of Colorado’s devastating wildfires in his weekly address, telling those affected that “America has their back.”

“Whether it's a fire here in Colorado, or a tornado in Alabama or Missouri, or a flood or a hurricane in Florida, one of the things that happens here in America is when we see our fellow citizens in trouble and having difficulty, we come together as one American family, as one community,” said the president in a message taped Friday during his visit to the fire-ravaged state. 

“And you see that spirit and you see that strength here in Colorado Springs, where people are working together, promising each other to rebuild. We've got to make sure that we are there with them every step of the way, even after this fire is put out,” he added.

The president visited Colorado Springs on Friday to view the devastation left after a week of wildfires which have destroyed over 350 homes, forced over 30,000 to be evacuated and claimed at least one life. Rescue workers are still battling the fires, which continue to rage out of control.

Earlier in the day, Obama declared a “major disaster” in the state and promised federal aid to local communities.

During his visit he travelled to a fire-hit residential community and spoke with rescue workers and evacuees. Obama praised the joint efforts of federal, state and local authorities to assist those affected. “I think what you see here is an example of outstanding coordination and cooperation,” he said. “We have been putting everything we have into trying to deal with what’s one of the worst fires that we’ve seen here in Colorado."

In his address, Obama praised the “courage and the discipline” of firefighters on the front lines and urged Americans to do their part to aid the recovery effort. 

“It's important that we appreciate what they do not just when our own communities are struck by disaster.  It's important that we remember what they do each and every single day, and that we continue to provide support to our first responders, our emergency management folks, our firefighters, our military - everybody who helps secure our liberty and our security each and every day,” he said.

White House officials said the visit was made to allow the president to view the natural disaster first hand and determine what federal resources would need to be committed. But the visit could have political implications as well. Colorado is a key battleground state which could help determine the winner of the November general election between Obama and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. 

Obama won the state in 2008 by 9 points over Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). A poll from We Ask America released last week showed Obama with a 4-point edge over Romney among registered Colorado voters, with 47 percent support to 43 for the former Massachusetts governor.